Rodrigo Chaves takes command in Costa Rica with the promise of a “historic change” | International

Rodrigo Chaves delivers his first speech as president in Costa Rica.
Rodrigo Chaves delivers his first speech as president in Costa Rica.MAYELA LOPEZ (REUTERS)

Rodrigo Chaves has become this Sunday the 49th president of Costa Rica. The 60-year-old economist has taken command with a critical speech of the recent history of the Central American country and with the promise of “rebuilding” the stable democracy by attending to the needs of the populations affected by the inequality gap. Chaves was sworn in at the seat of the opposition-controlled Legislative Assembly, away from the public and before 100 international delegations. The president has resumed the hard lines of his electoral campaign, where he charged against the political class, a populist message that propelled him to victory on April 3 with his debut Social Democratic Progress Party (PPSD). Chaves prevailed at the polls over former President José María Figueres, candidate of the veteran National Liberation Party (PLN).

“The moment we live in is crucial. We are the ones called to make a historic change (…) Here there are no distinctions between the ruling party and the opposition: if once again the political class fails, the country could fall apart”, said this Sunday Chaves, who promised during the campaign to give a change of political rudder to address the economic problems that have eroded the social welfare regime in the last three decades.

With the support of the poorest regions of the country and broad groups critical of recent governments, Chaves achieved a victory that he immediately described as a “peaceful revolution” in the country of 5.2 million inhabitants. Despite having moderated his speech in the following weeks, this Sunday he has once again singled out traditional politicians after being sworn into office.

“Prominent figures of the ruling political class, flippantly, and perhaps as an excuse for not making decisions that should be taken, have made us believe that Costa Rica is an ungovernable country,” he added before warning that courage is required to govern and that he has enough to turn the Central American nation into a different country.

“In the long history of more than 200 years of democratic life in the country, this possible historical accident is, for many, an unpredictable setback of the political order. The possibility of definitively changing the course of our lives is being raised,” said the economist, who served for almost three decades at the World Bank, until his resignation in 2019 motivated by complaints of sexual harassment, some remarks that were revealed in the bell. “We will not tolerate harassment [las mujeres] every day and in all spaces of society (…) My first commitment will be to stop discrimination and harassment against all of them in all areas,” he said at the ceremony. At the same time, dozens of women demonstrated against him in downtown San José.

Chaves refers to himself in the third person, presenting himself as the face of a popular movement based on the 30% of citizens who voted for him, enough to bring him to power. “This is not about an ambition or a personal project of a man named Rodrigo Chaves, but about rescuing a democracy,” added the president, where he said that he will govern with God’s favor, since fear of him “is the basis for the wisdom of a ruler. He before he swore on a Bible.

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Pressured by public finances worsened during the pandemic, Chaves takes command of an Administration with the expectation of an austere management of spending. There is also an urgent demand for adjustments so that fiscal discipline translates into better living conditions for Costa Ricans, a level deteriorated by the pandemic and now by the effects that the war in Eastern Europe has had on energy prices and inflation. .

The president recognized this urgency in his speech. His first decrees, however, attacked other issues: eliminating the mandatory use of the mask and vaccination for state workers. This has caused the repudiation of the medical union, who has demonstrated against the new measures on Sunday afternoon. Chaves also signed a declaration of emergency due to the cyberattacks that state platforms have recently suffered.

This is how Chaves acts in the face of decisions by the Alvarado government, which leaves office with an approval of 20%. The former president claims to have worked responsibly in the health emergency and with a positive balance, leaving “the house in order” in fiscal matters, alluding to the relative stability thanks to austerity measures committed to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Barely removing the presidential sash, Alvarado received the first direct message from Chaves: “Today I tell you that the idea that they want to sell us of a tidy house vanishes before the reality of the country. The reality is very different and it is a reality that is undeniable for us! As much as some want to continue scamming us,” he said a few meters from him.

Chaves’ bet is more ambitious. “We are not just going to tidy up the house. We are going to rebuild it! ”, He pronounced before seven heads of state, including King Felipe VI, the presidents of Panama and Colombia, Laurentino Cortizo and Iván Duque, and that of the Dominican Republic, Luis Abinader. The details of that reconstruction, the plans and the methods, as well as its foreign policy, are part of a project that is just beginning.

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